Ionic Liquids

Ionic liquids have been shown to have applications in the field of catalysis, metal deposition, extraction and batteries. Their cost and sensitivity to oxygen and moisture have however, limited their applications to these areas.

We have developed a range of ionic liquids that are inert to air and water and are similar in cost to common organic solvents. These fluids have negligible vapour pressures, large liquid ranges and are environmentally benign.

We are currently studying the physical and chemical characteristics of these liquids together with preliminary investigations to assess their suitability for a number of chemical and electrochemical applications.

ScioniX

We have set up a joint venture company called ScioniX between Leicester University and Whyte Chemicals in order to explore the potential applications of these liquids.

If you would like to discuss the use of these neoteric solvents then please contact us here at Leicester.

Research Interests

The main research interests of the group are firmly based around green chemistry with particular emphasis on electrochemical processes. It is active in developing novel solvent systems with industrial applications such as metal deposition and dissolution. It collaborates strongly with industry and much of the work to date has been in the development of novel processes using ionic liquids.

Room Temperature Ionic Liquids

Ionic Liquid Demonstrator

We have recently developed a range of ionic compounds, which are fluid at room temperature. These ionic liquids are based on choline chloride (vitamin B4) which is produced on the Mtonne p.a. scale and hence these ionic liquids can be applied to large scale processes for the first time. A joint venture involving the University and Whyte Chemicals Ltd. was started in 1999. This partnership allows fundamental and applied research to be carried out while providing the production, marketing and licensing capability of Britain's largest privately owned chemical company. This joint venture company Scionix Ltd. initially put in place at the University, a research group of 3 post-doctoral fellows who carried out the initial investigations to ensure that the intellectual property was developed and protected. The company now holds four worldwide patents that cover over a million ionic liquids and it has made 200kg batches of ten ionic liquids that it is selling internationally. This makes it one of the world's largest manufacturer of ionic liquids.

Applications Under Development

Electrodeposition of Chromium, Zinc and Various Alloys

This is currently in the beta-test scale using 50 litre baths to coat.

The work is now the basis for a 4 year, 13M Euro Integrated Project involving 36 companies and universities.

Electropolishing

This project is funded by the DTI and allows a benign ionic liquid to be used in place of phosphoric acid/sulphuric acid mixtures.

A 1300 litre test facility has been constructed in Birmingham and extensive tests have shown that significant benefits can be obtained over aqueous acid technology.

Ore Processing

A process is under development to extract metals from ore samples using ionic liquids and recover the metals using electrodeposition.

A spin-off process to recover Pt and Pd from spent car catalysts is being scaled up to a 1 tonne pilot plant.

Electroless Deposition
Processes have been developed for a number of metals onto a variety of substrates.

We are currently in discussions with a number of large companies about licensing ionic liquid technology for catalytic reactions, electropolishing, pickling and cleaning applications.

In addition to these applied areas we are currently studying the fundamental aspects of solvation in these novel media to elucidate solubility and reaction mechanisms. The relationship between structure, polarity and phase behaviour is also under investigation and we are using hole theory to model physical properties such as viscosity and surface tension. We have recently used this new theory to develop less viscous ionic liquids by fluorination of the hydrogen bond donors.

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Contact Details

Department of Chemistry
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Email: chemistry@le.ac.uk

Tel: [+44] (0)116 252 2100

Fax: [+44] (0)116 252 3789

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